The church of Norton Mandeville
All Saints’ church is a rural church that has been serving the Norton Mandeville community since the 12th century.
History of All Saint’s church
This small, simple church, situated on the edge of a busy farmyard with fine open views across unspoilt meadows to the south, is linked to the Parish of High Ongar and was probably built as a Chapel of Ease for that village. The church consists of a Nave, Chancel, South Porch and small bell turret at the West end of the Nave.
The walls of flint rubble date from the first half of the 14th century but mixed with it are some blocks of freestone from a 12th century church which indicates the existence of an earlier church on the site. This view is reinforced by the font, which is of 12th century origin and it is generally believed that the church was first built between 1182 and 1190.
The church of All Saints’, which is the second most popular dedication in Essex, was at one time held by the Dean and Cannons’ of St. Paul’s in London. In 1190 it was granted to the Priory of St. Leonard’s at Bromley in Middlesex by Galiena de Dammartin and it was her second husband, Ralph Mandeville, who gave his name to the original Manor of Norton or North Tun, meaning a homestead or village, in the old Ongar Hundred.
The name of Mandeville originates from a village of that name in Normandy, France, and there was a Geoffrey de Mandeville who landed with William the Conqueror and whose grandson became the first Earl
St. Leonard’s retained All Saints’ until the dissolution of monasteries when Henry V111 granted the Rectory and the right of appointing the Vicar to William Rolte, one of his Sergeants-at-Arms. It subsequently passed through many hands and in 1800 came to the Capel Cure family of Blake Hall, Chipping Ongar and remained with them until 1923, when the title was merged with the Parish of Blackmore. In 1958 it was then linked to the Parish of High Ongar.
The church building
The roof in the Nave is supported by three trusses with original 14th century king posts. These have moulded capitals and bases with two way struts. On the Western strut two braced posts support the bell tower. The roof in the Chancel is modern, with the exception of the chamfered tie beam, king posts and two way struts which date back to the 15th century.
The Northern window in the Chancel is considered to be 14th century, as is the smaller Chancel window. Other windows have been largely restored and those of the East and South in the Chancel are modern copies, but do incorporate some elements of the originals. The stained glass in the small Chancel window was given in memory of John Cooch Caton, who was Church Warden from 1877-1892. The glass in the East window was erected in memory of the Reverend W. M. Oliver, Rector of Bobbingworth, who donated money for the restoration of All Saints’ in 1903. The only other stained glass in the church is in the West window of the North Nave and depicts the text ‘suffer the little children to come unto me’. This is in memory of the Reverend F. A. S. Fane, Vicar from 1854-1890.
The South doorway has two arches and supports, one set inside the other. The inner one is thought to be 13th century and was probably reset within the outer one in the 14th century when the present building was erected. The North doorway has been greatly restored and has no firm date of origin.
Other features of interest
This is of 12th century origin with a square bowl made of Barnack stone with four angle shafts and moulded capitals. The base is of a later date. Round the base are interesting slip tiles of varying patterns which probably date from the 14th century and were discovered during the restoration in 1903.
The eight brass lamps with glass funnels are over 100 years old and provide the only lighting in the church. They were refurbished in 1992 in memory of Reg Amor who was closely involved with the restoration ofthe church in the 1980’s.
All Saints’ is one of the very few churches in Essex that is lit only by paraffin lamps.
There are six early 16th century open benches with roughly carved poppyhead ends. The remaining benches came from a nearby redundant church at Berners Roding.
This contains some 18th century mouldings and on the wall nearby is a wrought iron hour glass stand of 17th century origin.
The Chancel Screen
This is modern, probably dating from 1903, though it incorporates tracery from carvings ofthe 15th century.
These were used for the washing of communion vessels and there is an original one set in the South wall of the Nave close to the pulpit. Another in the Chancel is a modern copy though its adjacent drain is original. Nearby, and now supported by a wall bracket, is part of a pillar piscina with spiral lluting to the shaft which dates from the 12th century. Adjacent to the organ in the Nave is a double locker of stone which was probably used for the storage of communion items.
There are two late 17th century carved wooden figures that belong to the church depicting the lion and the unicorn. These are likely to have come from a civic pew in a City of London church. Due to the possibility of theft they are now held by the Church Warden. A photograph of them can be seen on the North wall of the Nave.
The church is heated by an effective underfloor solid fuel boiler, with warm air grilles in the nave floor. This is believed to be unique in Essex.
This is a 17th century oak table with turned legs and moulded top with carved brackets.
These turned balusters date from the mid 18th century.
ln addition to the memorial windows already described, there is a brass plaque beneath the small Chancel window commemorating the service given by John Cooch Caton. On the floor of the Nave to the west of the South door are inscribed slabs dated 1824 and 1840. These are to the memory of Mary and Robert Hadsley and their son John who lived at nearby Norton Hall.
There is a brass plaque on the North wall of the Chancel which records the rebuilding in 1903 and gives the name of the Vicar, the Reverend W. Layton Petrie, and the Church Wardens, Mr. R. Partridge and Mr. T. M. McKinley. The architects were Chancellor & Son and the builders, Potter & Son.
The flint rubble 14th century walls have limestone angles. The buttresses were added at varying dates and have subsequently been repaired with red brick.
The weatherboarded bell turret is late 14th or early 15th century and contains one bell dated 1872 made by John Warner & Sons of London. This replaced an earlier bell struck in 1782 by Chapman & Mears.
A great deal of work has taken place in recent years to achieve the clearing of the churchyard to the hedge boundaries. Careful attention is now given to the management of the churchyard for the encouragement of wild life and plants, of which more than 140 varieties can be found during the year. There are few monuments but one in particular is worth examining. This is located beneath the yew trees to the south and contains the following verse:
Stay passenger as you pass by
As you are now so ance was I
As I crm now so must you be
Therefore prepare to follow me.
ln the south-east corner can be found the grave of William Bright who was the blacksmith at Norton Heath and who died in 1851. In the same part of the grounds is the monument to Catherine Gosling who was the schoolmistress of the parish for 35 years. She was married to a farm labourer and had seven children of her own as well as teaching the village children.
The ancient avenue of yew trees leading to the porch indicates that the original path to the church was from the south.
Unfortunately none of the early registers have survived. It was reported in 1893 that they were in poor condition and by 1899 they had perished from damp.
The registers that have survived are held in the Essex Record Office and give details of marriages from 1779, burials from 1783 and baptisms from 1784.
Registers containing entries of baptisms and burials from 1812 and marriages from 1836 are currently in the care of the Rector who lives in The Rectory at High Ongar. The churches of St. Mary’s High Ongar and St. James’ at Marden Ash are also within his care.
All Saints’ has always been a small living and in 1769 the curate received £6 a year and held a service once a month for a congregation of 6 or 7. By 1810 the curate’s income had risen to £94 and in the 1851 Ecclesiastical Census the congregation was given as around 50. Today between 25-30 people regularly attend the monthly services.